Published on October 25th, 2012 |
by Ben Pearse
Preview – The Ship: Full Steam Ahead
The Ship, one of Steam’s first ever bona fide third-party hits, released back in 2006, saw a revolution in multiplayer deathmatch gameplay. Stuck on a murderous ship you had 90 seconds to hunt down and kill your quarry. The catch? Someone is out hunting you as well. This unique blend of stealth, disguise and suspense made it one of my favourite multiplayer experiences of the decade, and the reason I’m not allowed back on any P&O cruises.
Fast-forward to 2011 and fresh off the boat Scottish developers Blazing Griffin have acquired the distribution rights to The Ship. The game was sinking fast in terms of players, but BG soon managed to right the ship and add new crew to its decks with price drops and its inclusion in indie bundles. Ok, so I’ve got all the ship-related puns out my system for now, but Blazing Griffin clearly hasn’t, as their upcoming steampunk-themed sequel is rather cleverly titled The Ship: Full Steam Ahead, and goes live on Kickstarter come October 31st. Ahead of their announcement I sat down with Blazing Griffin’s Community Manager Phil Harris to discuss their plans for this upcoming event.
Set during Queen Victoria’s reign, Harris states this “steampunk reimagining of the original game concept” will have a vastly improved multiplayer AI and more balanced weapon system, as well as a unique storyline differing from The Ship. The developers are also looking to include more game-modes; the more money they exceed their Kickstarter goal by, the more enhanced Full Steam Ahead will be.
Harris also hints at how Blazing Griffin intend on making use of the steampunk setting, promising new, imaginative tools of destruction with which to lay waste to more interesting maps in the sky, for as we are often reminded “not all ships float on water”. Oh, and there are ray-guns… and robots, tell me what game wouldn’t be improved with robots?
Full Steam Ahead’s Kickstarter, lasting from October 31st until New Year’s Eve, has a target of $200,000 and begins on the first day the crowdfunding website opens its doors to UK projects. What’s stimulating here, and pretty admirable, is that for every $200k raised for FSA, The Ship’s price will be reduced by 20%; if fan funding reaches $1million, the original game will become free-to-play as “that revenue stream no longer becomes relevant.” If funding is raised over this 200K target then the improvement options run to an expansion of FSA’s multiplayer in terms of game-modes and maps and the inclusion of a possible single-player campaign, as well as speeding up development time as a whole.
As Harris is quick to address, Blazing Griffin “understand the excitement the Kickstarter of Full Steam Ahead is building” and so they aim to work as quickly as possible in production of FSA, from December 31st, in order for the game’s initial hype to not lose steam (last one, I promise). This is why Griffin have made each purchase of The Ship come with an additional four other copies for free; they appreciate that the fan-base for the franchise needs to be constantly expanding if Full Steam Ahead is to succeed. Simply, Harris and co “want to keep a good head of steam going to ensure fans get their game, but allow us to develop a solid game too.”
Money from backers’ pockets alone won’t entirely fund Full Steam Ahead however, as the team actually needs $1million to support the entire project and publish it themselves, something they believe strongly in as “making a deal with a publisher may limit what we do with the IP in the future”. Instead, they’re using their Kickstarter to show potential investors that if the 200K is raised, there is an interest in the game, and so these funders will then back them the rest of the money. If the Kickstarter doesn’t reach its target then Blazing Griffin ensures that the FSA will most likely still be made, but “the time it will take to make a sequel will be considerably longer as the funding will have to be raised through different sources.”
So, apart from actually seeing the game get made, what’s offered to those who get in early? At first glance the numerous tiers for backing the project look pretty familiar; $25 snags a certificate and custom avatars, whilst dishing up $250 receives in-game credits and t-shirts among other swag. What’s most surprising, however, is that Harris admits that BG want a unique payment model for the game and “at this point in time none of the rewards involve a copy of the game,” instead, Blazing Griffin are “looking at interesting ways for the player to decide how they wish to pay for content consumed.” Those of you who read this as the game becoming free-to-play and are worried that it might adapt a ‘pay-to-win’ model shouldn’t be too concerned in our opinion. That single-player might be added later and that BG want to continue supporting the game after its release makes this sound like paid downloadable content to us, with the campaign being one of these DLC pieces. Let’s not forget that the single and multiplayer of The Ship are two separate purchases.
Blazing Griffin are only in the pre-production stages of The Ship: Full Steam Ahead at the moment, but are actually listening to peoples’ thoughts and ideas for the sequel and taking them on board. Before the year’s end is the perfect time for a fan to say what they want to see, as your voice will genuinely be heard. What’s more is that if they reach their target they promise to “build on the game after launch through continued community support”. It’s here Harris gives a nod towards titles such as Natural Selection 2, a game which will give its fans all the tools its developers had – level editor, cinematic tools, the full source code to the game – as well as Steam Workshop integration on launch.
One final thing Griffin did tell us is that they will be rewarding early crowdfunders with alpha and beta privileges to their game, which for the time being is coming to both PC and Mac. So if you’re a fan, make sure it’s all hands on deck on October 31st (ok, I lied).
Are you excited about The Ship: Full Steam Ahead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments selection below, be they good or bad. On November 2nd we’ll pick one lucky commenter at random to win one free copy of The Ship.